11 of the Best Books on Politics: US + Global Reads

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Julia is a professional nerd who can be seen lying wild with books in the park in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago and an MA in Media Studies from the Pratt Institute. She loves fandom, theater, cheese and Edith Piaf. Find her at juliaRITenberg.com.

If you live in the United States, this is one of those years when American politics becomes completely unavoidable. It is the year in which eligible voters in the United States elect a president, a president under a two-party system. However, the choice on the ballot is something that is extremely limiting. There are numerous political issues that affect our daily lives, and in this particular election year it is important to understand the structure of political processes and how you can get involved in your community and on a larger scale. Book Riot regularly reports on book censorship news, and most censorship activities start in local school boards and PTAs. It is crucial to understand the way politics weaves through our lives, from everyday experiences to the long arc of international relations. The best books on politics are a great place to start for your political education.

The problem with US presidential elections is that they tend to suck up all the air in the political conversation space. All problems are based on the elections, even international ones. It’s important because the US is a huge political entity that shapes the world, but there’s more to know than who’s in the White House. We should all read a variety of sources on American and global politics to develop a strong set of requirements for political participation, from local protests to global events. Here are some books to get you started, including titles that delve deeply into the topics at the heart of current political debates.

The best books about American politics

What You Need to Know About Voting – and Why by Kim Wehle

If you recently became eligible to vote, know someone who, or If you have a friend who doesn’t vote, Kim Wehle’s book provides an excellent introduction to voting in the United States and why it matters. In addition to teaching readers how to register to vote, she answers basic questions about the voting process, from mail-in ballots to the Electoral College. She also explains the history of voting in the United States and how an informed, active voting public is positive.

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Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World by Annie Lowrey

Universal basic income is a concept that is as simple as it sounds: the government gives every citizen a fixed amount of money every month. When this book first came out in 2018, it was a hot topic of debate. After the stimulus checks and unemployment aid given to people during the COVID-19 pandemic, I had assumed this would become even more of a rallying cry. Lowrey presents a deeply researched account of how basic income helps people and how global poverty is perpetuated by indifferent governments. At a time of intense income inequality, her argument for a basic income is extremely relevant.

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Hood Feminism: Comments from the Women Who Forgot a Movement by Mikki Kendall

Once again, Kendall’s book seemed to anticipate the problems that arose after its publication: she outlined the many ways in which the contemporary feminist movement failed as an intersectional political movement. She deftly outlines how white feminists focus on their own accumulation of power, while feminism as a way to support marginalized women has fallen by the wayside.

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Hatred at Home: The New Global Far Right by Cynthia Miller-Idriss

The far right is an unfortunate reality these days, and instead of assessing the why, Idriss delves into where these communities meet and organize. Their recruitment tactics are incredibly powerful and often hidden in plain sight. Young people are constantly encountering far-right ideology on the Internet, and they could become the violent extremists of tomorrow if we don’t intervene early and often to combat these far-right funnels.

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Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis

Still a critical voice in the world of political protest, Angela Davis in 2015 used the summer of 2014 protests in Ferguson as a jumping off point to discuss the history of protests. That particular summer was a boiling point for many decades-long liberation movements. The global connections between these movements become clear through Davis’s writings.

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When Crack Was King: A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era by Donovan X. Ramsey

Drugs and their effects on communities are a crucial part of American political history. The rise of crack and cocaine in the United States led to an intensification of the drug war and the increase in the number of prisoners. Ramsey interweaves the stories of four people whose lives were affected by the drug with the simultaneous history of the legal system and the police.

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Dying by the Sword: The Militarization of American Foreign Policy by Monica Duffy Toft and Sidita Kushi

Before we can fully focus on global politics, it is necessary to understand how the US exercises its military power around the world. Instead of other methods of diplomacy, the authors argue that the US government has resorted to military force more often than any other solution. There will be far-reaching consequences for global politics and life in the United States.

The best books on politics: a global perspective

the Hundred Years' War against Palestine

The Hundred Years’ War Against Palestine by Rashid Khalidi

As of this writing, this is the number one book in the international political genre on Amazon, probably because people want to understand how and Why a genocide may take place in plain sight. From the very beginning, Khalidi follows the history of the attack on Palestine from every angle: from the British colonial occupation of the Middle East to the Zionist drive to expel the people of Palestine from their land. At every stage of the past hundred years of international politics, Palestinians have suffered the wrath of settler colonialism.

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Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took Over the West by Catherine Belton

News from Russia can sometimes feel very opaque, so Catherine Belton uses her extensive background in Moscow reporting to demystify the country’s history and how their current strongman came to power. The Kremlin is filled with political power players with deep roots in Russia’s Soviet era, and they seek to enrich themselves and consolidate power.

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Corrupted Democracy: Viktor Orbán and the Subversion of Hungary by Zsuzsanna Szelényi

Viktor Orbán, President of Hungary, is essentially the face of far-right political extremism in Europe. After the end of the Soviet Union, Hungary was much more liberal, but after his election in 2010, Orbán moved further to the right. The author of this book is the founder of the opposition Together party, and she presents the reasons for Orbán’s success and the ways to resist his party’s autocratic rule.

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History of South Africa: 1902 to the Present by Thula Simpson

South Africa’s history encompasses much more than the end of apartheid: from its colonization by the Dutch and British to the many influential figures who worked with Nelson Mandela to end unequal government rule. South Africa’s liberation struggle had far-reaching consequences for world politics and for the freedom of the people who lived there.

The state of the world often feels overwhelming to me. Arming yourself with knowledge, whether it’s about women in politics or the history of queer liberation, can be both soothing and empowering.

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